Not just pivots: Unfair Vantage

More often than not, founders set off in one direction -- but discover real opportunity through the new vantage they gain.

Not just pivots: Unfair Vantage

Pivots were one of the big ideas popularised by the Lean Startup, demonstrated by Odeo, and many others since. It's a handy word to describe the fundamental search for PMF. But after years working with startups, I think there's another way to describe how and why pivots work: Vantage.

Often founders begin their journey at ground zero: an idea, but no direct market experience. You decide there's a hill to climb nearby and set out.

As you learn more about the market's problem, customers, existing solutions, you slog up the hill and begin to see further and get a better picture of the real environment around you.

Eventually, you'll reach the first plateau and look around. You start to realise things that seemed one way on the ground are actually quite different: "that's a lake, not the sea." You notice things that nobody could from ground level.

The best opportunities are non-obvious, otherwise someone would have got there first. And they require a market insight to solve, that rarely comes from founders starting at total ground zero.

And so: I feel like, more often than not, the most successful founders set out on one journey, and almost by coincidence, that new vantage point reveals great opportunities that really matter.

Industry experience might let you start with more of this perspective than a novice. But equally, you might squander that (ad)vantage by being preoccupied looking in the wrong direction. There's something about being able to see it fresh and listen to the market in a new way.

Equally, your ascent might be slow and effective, or might be like a rocket but pointless. You might have started in the wrong place altogether, perhaps just by bad luck. You might never get off the ground.

But setting off on that first journey, knowing the altitude alone could give you an "unfair vantage" (to paraphrase another common idea), seems to me an even stronger way to consider why pivots can work.